It’s shocking but true. The more TV you watch, the more overweight you’re likely to be. In a groundbreaking 1990 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, researchers determined that there is a strong positive relationship between television watching and obesity. Subsequent studies have linked TV to specific symptoms of obesity or being overweight, such as worsening triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and blood sugar control.
Why is this so? Put simply, the more TV you watch, the less likely you are to exercise. In the CDC study, which surveyed nearly 12,000 high school students, only 12% of students engaged in 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity three or more times per week. In contrasts, 70% watched over an hour of TV each day and 35% said they watched 3 hours of TV or more. And this was back in 1990, before videogame consoles became common household appliances.
Researchers at the CDC estimate that approximately 250,000 deaths could be prevented each year if people were more active, that is, if they were more physically active and watched less TV.
Why is this important for kids? Because kids develop habits and set patterns that will carry into adulthood. Inactive kids are likely to become more inactive adults. Active kids stand a much better chance of growing into active adults. And the health risks aren’t 50 years out either. A recent study by two doctors at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, published at the end of 2003 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that young adults, ages 18 to 30, with low fitness levels were three to six times more likely than fit participants to develop Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome, thought to be caused by excess weight, physical inactivity and genetic factors. One of the duPont researchers was quoted as saying: “There are long-term adverse health consequences for young adults [from] staying indoors and relying on video games and PCs for entertainment.”